Saturday, July 26, 2008
Rusty's Comments On Newman Will Not Go Away
It certainly was a shame that Rusty Wallace took the opportunity to speak about Ryan Newman and Roger Penske on this Indy weekend. Certainly, the ESPN executives were hoping to go through the Saturday and Sunday races with Dale Jarrett being the big name and the race coverage being the focus. Sadly, it is not.
The long-simmering feud between Wallace and Newman re-surfaced, even through Rusty is well over a year removed from his active driving days. Last season, Wallace had a very tough time handling the pressure of the ESPN broadcast booth for one reason. He simply could not control what he sometimes said. That is key on TV.
In 2008, Wallace was retained by the ESPN team but given a new role as Infield Pit Center commentator. This released Wallace from the tough pressure of the high-profile play-by-play role but allowed him to step into the booth when Dale Jarrett was on vacation. With Allen Bestwick guiding his on-air activities, Wallace has flourished this season on multiple ESPN programs and this change was noticed by TV viewers.
This week, Wallace stepped-out on a limb again at the worst possible time. Stories like this one in the IndyStar and this one at the Sporting News told the tale. Out of the blue, Wallace declared to the working media that Ryan Newman had been fired by Penske at the end of the season.
"I'll clear the leaving thing up first," Wallace said Friday at an ESPN press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "That didn't happen. He didn't leave. Roger Penske called Ryan Newman up to his office and said, 'I don't need your services next year.'
"Ryan Newman didn't come to him and say, 'I'm leaving.' OK? You all need to write about that. That's exactly how it went down. Obviously, there was some bad blood there when it happened. I love Roger Penske, so I'm going to clear the story up for him."
To have this happen at an ESPN press conference that was supposed to focus on the upcoming coverage of the Sprint Cup Series by the ESPN family of networks did not go over well. As has happened many times throughout Wallace's career, his timing could not be worse and dragging Roger Penske into the conversation was a big mistake.
Saturday on ESPN viewers are going to see the trio of Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree featured. Bestwick, Wallace and Brad Daugherty worked on Thursday and Friday filing reports for SportsCenter and NASCAR Now.
It will be Sunday when the network grits its teeth and turns the camera on the Infield Pit Center for the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. In a move that now seems terribly ironic, it will be NASCAR owners Wallace, Daugherty and Ray Evernham who will be joining Bestwick on the panel. It should be very interesting to see if Bestwick raises the Wallace vs. Newman incident.
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